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Published: Sunday April 20, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Sunday April 20, 2014 MYT 9:55:26 AM

World Book Day: What is your favourite book fix?

Kevin Loh Zhi: ‘This wonderful genre never fails to put a smile on my face’.

Kevin Loh Zhi: ‘This wonderful genre never fails to put a smile on my face’.

With World Book Day around the corner on April 23, we explore some of the more popular genres of books.

Imagine a world where dragons take flight and elves walk the Earth.

Or a future where time travel, warp speed and cyborgs are commonplace.

Immerse yourself in a life well-lived by an inspiring person, or get caught up in intrigue and drama. Or fall in love. And do it all without leaving your bed – because all it takes is a good book.

Ah, but what is the definition of a “good” book?

The literary types might say awards define a good book. But those who love crime thrillers might retort that their faves never win literary awards but are great books nevertheless. And what about chick lit and romances, which can elicit vociferous arguments?

So many genres, each with thousands of books ... so we asked some bookworms to share their favourite genres and just why they like them.

Have a look at what our interviewees say and then e-mail us at star2@thestar.com.my and tell us if you agree with them or think they’re full of guff; and, of course, tell us what your favourite genre is and why it’s the best of all.

Chick lit

Kevin Loh Zhi Wern, 20, student

Why he loves it and why it’s popular: It’s got everything you want when you are looking for an escape from the real world. Chick lit, to me, is pure escapism. You have the classic girl-meets-boy love story, or a story about a heroine’s journey to self-discovery. And if you’re craving something emotional and tear-jerking – the dark chocolate of chick lit, as it’s known – you can find it in this genre too.

Chick lit is funny, romantic, and highly entertaining but there are times it can render you speechless and move you to tears, and yet, it will always put a smile on your face after you turn the final page.

The Shopoholic series by Sophie Kinsella is a beloved by those who like the chick lit genre.
The Shopoholic series by Sophie Kinsella is a beloved by those who like the chick lit genre.

I’ve always been a fan of romantic comedies and chick lit is no different. I like how it makes me laugh out loud. I like how it can easily move me to tears. This wonderful genre never fails to put a smile on my face.

Favourite book from the genre: The Secret Dreamworld Of A Shopaholic (also published as Confessions Of A Shopaholic) by Sophie Kinsella. It’s the book that started it all. It sparked my passionate love affair with chick lit.

Recommendation for someone who has never read chick lit: The Shopaholic series by Kinsella. She’s one of the pioneers of chick lit and her books never go wrong. She has a flair for words that will immediately capture your attention and keep it until the end, and her characters are wonderfully written. Her writing shines with humour and warmth.

Amir Ibrahim, 34, a big fan of fantasy books.
Amir Ibrahim: ‘A world where non-humans exist and interact with humans is very fascinating to me.’

Fantasy

Amir Ibrahim, 34, solution architect

I discovered fantasy literature when I started reading The Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton. I was very young at that time and it’s probably the first English book I ever finished.

I continued reading books in this genre because it’s really fun, and I guess I’ve never really accepted the fact that humans are the only race in the universe, and a world where non-humans exist and interact with humans is very fascinating to me.

Why it’s popular: I think the fantasy genre has never really taken itself seriously. It makes itself very approachable to any new readers. Also, it’s a great way to journey to a completely different world then the one we live in.

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Favourite book from the genre: Stardust by Neil Gaiman is one of the books I never tire of reading again. A beautiful story about choices made in life – Gaiman is a fantastic author!

Recommendation for someone who has never read a fantasy book: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. A great book by two great masters of the fantasy literature genre! It’s hilariously funny while managing to present some meaningful messages about life.

Arvind Singh Sidhu, 30, is a big horror book fan. CHAN TAK KONG/The Star
Note the macabre decor (including a silver skull) behind Arvind Singh Sidhu — sign of a horror fan for sure! — CHAN TAK KONG/The Star

Horror

Arvind Singh Sidhu, 30, recruitment lead manager

Why he loves it: The horror genre can be considered the dark side of fantasy. I got interested because I am a heavy metal fan when it comes to music, and we tend to gravitate towards the macabre. What keeps me interested is definitely the shock value. Horror fans are always looking for that little bit extra. For me, I need that little bit of “extra” that challenges my mind – and a good
horror book definitely does that!

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Why it’s popular: Horror is a combination of adrenaline and suspense, as well as an escape. No matter how bad your own life gets, it can’t be as bad as the ordeal or the dark side of what happens in the book. The tragedy ends (in most cases) at the end of a horror novel, bringing a sense of closure. Or there may be hints of a sequel that get fans excited, thinking that the madness hasn’t ended!

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Favourite book from the genre: Stephen King’s The Shining. It’s one of those quiet horror books that are so creepy because it’s psychological and really messes with your mind.

Recommendation for someone who has never read horror: Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby. It’s the most basic of horror, without the gore and violence, but it builds a solid foundation for those considering this genre. It plays with your mind and takes you to the deepest and darkest parts of the psyche, yet it’s a very easy read as well – definitely a good start for beginners.

Catalina Rembuyan, 32, is a fan of literary books.
Catalina Rembuyan is ‘attracted to aesthetics first and foremost’.

Literary fiction

Catalina Rembuyan, 32, lecturer

Why she loves it: This is a very difficult genre to define – I guess the best way of defining it would be “aesthetically pleasing works of fiction, drama, non-fiction or poetry that don’t fall into conventional genres”.

The main reason why I tend to read works from this genre is because I am attracted to aesthetics first and foremost. If a story has an exciting plot but is not beautifully written, I find it difficult to follow. On the other hand, a seemingly dull story that is told beautifully can be very emotionally moving.

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The main reason why I tend to read works from this genre is because I am attracted to aesthetics first and foremost. If a story has an exciting plot but is not beautifully written, I find it difficult to follow. On the other hand, a seemingly dull story that is told beautifully can be very emotionally moving.

Why it’s popular: I think people who are drawn to this genre are looking for more than just an enjoyable story – they want to read something that is told beautifully.

Favourite book from the genre: Voss by Patrick White. Voss is a very relatable character, and the book is epic in scope; it also portrays the Australian landscape very powerfully.

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Recommendation for someone who has never read a literary book: Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (pick the translation by Constance Garnett). It’s a psychological thriller – the main character, Raskolnikov, commits a crime and is haunted by his guilt. As the story progresses, the novel explores various philosophical perspectives and Raskolnikov has to decide if he should turn himself in or get away with murder. It has an exciting plot with very memorable characters.

Loke Poh Lin, 55, is a big fan of non-fiction books.
Loke Poh Lin: ‘I’m curious about human nature and what makes people tick.’

Non-fiction

Loke Poh Lin, 55, branding & editorial manager

Why she loves it: I particularly like biographies because I’m curious about human nature and what makes people tick – from statesmen to game-changers to the citizen on the street. One common thread runs through all of the stories: strength of human nature. When a person is sure of his or her conviction/ passion, nothing will hold him or her back – not a lack of resources, not obstacles, not public censure, not society’s mores or religion.

Why it’s popular: Human beings are naturally curious and we are all natural voyeurs too! Biographies give us permission to see beyond the public persona into a person’s background and upbringing, training, trials and tribulations and the overcoming of it all.

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Favourite book from the genre: Gandhi: Father Of A Nation by Catherine Clement, a Frenchwoman. I have read three biographies of Gandhi and this one is a favourite because it’s not only well researched but richly punctuated with photographs, drawings and paintings of the time, giving it visual depth. It is translated into English from the original French.

Recommendation for someone who has never read non-fiction: Choose someone from something close to your heart. If you’re a foodie, I’d recommend Nigel Slather’s Toast or one of Ruth Reichl’s books. Or if you are a serious journalist, then read Pulitzer’s biography or one of Robert Fisk’s books (don’t think there are any bios on him yet). It will make the journey a little more familiar and enjoyable.

Hemavathy DM Suppiah, 32, is a big fan of romance books.
Hemavathy D.M. Suppiah: ‘I prefer old fashioned love stories, lots of conflict and happy-ever-afters.’

Romance

Hemavathy D.M. Suppiah, 32, senior content editor

Why she loves it: My mother was a fan of romance, and my very first romance was a battered old copy of a Denise Robins paperback, Venetian Rhapsody. This led me to start collecting secondhand Mills & Boon’s books, scouring old bookstores and buying books by the bags – I prefer old fashioned love stories, lots of conflict and happy-ever-afters.

Why it’s popular: I think people just love happy endings. I certainly do. I was brought up on romances that promised fairytale endings for everyone. It’s a form of escapism. In romance novels no matter how bad things get, you know that in the end the bad people have unhappy endings and the good people fall in love and live happily ever after, unlike real life, which is messy.

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Plus, over the last 10 to 15 years romances have changed: heroines these days are independent career women more than capable of taking on any man. They want happy endings too, but as long as it’s on their terms. There are also more interracial and interfaith romances, and characters are much more complex and detailed now.

Favourite book from the genre: Cotillion by Georgette Heyer. It’s a lighthearted Regency romance set in early 18th century England, and is full of dry humour and wit and beautiful clothes, and lots of twists and turns along the way. It’s just full of layers and wonderful characters.

Recommendation for someone who has never read a romance: I have to say the same book, Cotillion – it’s easy to read and quite funny. And although it starts out like a typical romance novel, it’s very slyly written and the surprise at the end is pleasant.

Author E.S. Shankar, an ex-auditor who wrote
E.S. Shankar: ‘Sci-fi expands the mind, especially the imagination.’

Sci-fi

E.S. Shankar, 61, former auditor, current author 

(Tiger Isle , Government Of Thieves )

Why he loves it: Sci-fi expands the mind, especially the imagination. It poses difficult questions, and then tackles them, for example the concepts of the end of the world, cryogenics, robotics. What’s amazing is that these writers have thought that far ahead, and they’ve based their stories on pre-existing theories. It’s fascinating.

Why it’s popular: Sci-fi goes beyond emotions (although there is plenty of emotion, that’s not the focus), it’s more about the future and how the world is. It focuses on the sciences – fascinating things like quantum theory and telepathy, as well as wormholes, black holes and warp speed – and weaves in a little sorcery as well. Authors like Arthur C. Clarke, Frank Herbert, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and Michael Crichton were so ahead of their time in terms of their books – they tackled and predicted things like cloning, cosmology and even evidence of life on Mars. TV series Star Trek has taken it to a whole new level, with its “Beam me up, Scotty” teleporter!

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Favourite book from the genre: War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells. It was written a long time before anybody knew or thought about aliens, and even the technology used to bring them from their planet to ours, and how something as simple as a common cold defeated them. The implications of the story are amazing, and it’s got everything – aliens, death machines, robots!

Recommendation for someone who has never read sci-fi: The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov, because it tackles a lot of issues about the future of the world. It captures the imagination and makes life more interesting. It also examines the rules of robotics, and questions what happens when robots begin to think for themselves.

Nicholas Chan Yee Soon, 36, is a big fan of thriller books.
Nicholas Chan Yee Soon: ‘I was blown away by the intense attention to detail that Tom Clancy puts into all his books.’

Thrillers

Nicholas Chan Yee Soon, 36, C3PO (chief performance, potential & people officer)

Why he loves them: I got interested in the genre when I was given a copy of The Hunt For Red October (by the late, great Tom Clancy) in my teens, even though it was published in the 1980s. Since I was an avid military technology and geo-politics fan, I was blown away by the intense attention to detail that Clancy puts into all his books, his knowledge and handling of the lingo of the genre are truly masterful and that’s what kept me interested for so many years.

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Why they’re popular: Most of the authors in this area capture their readers based on their use of intrigue, politics, military technology, thrilling storylines and, most importantly, characters we can find affinity with.

Favourite book from the genre: It’s still Hunt For Red October even after all these years! It’s a good blend of political intrigue, Cold War era espionage and military strategy and tactics.

Recommendation for someone who has never read thrillers: And again I have to say, The Hunt For Red October! The pace is manageable and it does not delve too much into the Ryanverse, which is the main core storyline that goes through Clancy’s books that feature the main character Jack Ryan.


Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle, World Book Day, books, genres, fans

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